I can't believe I've never written this post. Having a panic attack can feel like a life or death situation especially if you've never had one before. Even if you have had your fair share of panic attacks, they can still be pretty terrifying. Those who suffer from panic attacks regularly know they are not going to die and often can feel them coming. But what about the people around you?
Do they know what to do? Do they know how to support you? I'm fully aware that not everyone who reads my blog has mental health problems. And even if they do, they might not suffer from panic attacks. It's all well and good if the person having the panic attack knows what to do, but if the people around them just make it worse, what's the point in that?
It's essential if your friend or even family member has a panic attack in front of you, you know what to do. I've been there for my friends who are having panic attacks, and I've been having panic attacks and my friends have been there for me. It's safe to say I have a lot of experience and know what I'm on about. I really hope this post helps you know what to do next time someone you know has a panic attack.
1. Stay calm
Your friend is not going to be calm. Duh... you didn't need me to tell you that. You need to stay calm. If you're running around like a headless chicken, panicking and freaking out about your friend, you're not going to make the situation any better. Your job is to make the situation better not worse. Internally you may be like a volcano about to explode. Externally, however, you need to be as cool as a cucumber.
2. Stay with them
Most of the time I couldn't care less about health and safety, but I'm going to put my health and safety hat on here and formal voice and tell you YOU MUST STAY WITH SOMEONE HAVING A PANIC ATTACK. Panic attacks can cause someone to faint, so it's paramount you don't leave them. If you can take them somewhere quiet and away from noisy crowds. Try and flag someone down to help, maybe get some water for them. Whatever you do don't even think of leaving them. Don't be an idiot yeah?
3. Don't get angry with them
It's NOT their fault. Panic attacks are awful like absolutely words can't describe awful. No one in their right mind would want a panic attack. Like if you asked someone if they wanted to feel like they were dying for a couple of minutes which could last up to half an hour, funny enough they would say no. That's what having a panic attack feels like. You feel like you are dying. Do me a favour, don't get angry with them yeah? It's not their fault in the slightest. I'm sorry you've missed something you were looking forward to, maybe you've left your lesson half way through, and you're all so important education will suffer. Well try living with anxiety every single day and put yourself in their shoes. Your dreadfully important thing probably wasn't that important after all.
4. Make them laugh
Instead of being an absolute idiot, and getting angry with them for literally something which is not their fault, make them laugh instead. Crack a joke, tell them something that you know will make them laugh. Remember a funny story or memory? Tell them that. Distraction is key. It may not work, they may be too frightened or anxious to actually listen but as they start to calm down, making them laugh will give them something else to think about and fingers crossed will make them feel better again.
5. Listen to them
I know when I have a panic attack I start spouting the biggest load of rubbish going. That can't be helped sorry. I start rambling on about things which aren't there and things which aren't going to happen. I start basically thinking out loud. This is dead annoying for anyone who has to listen to me, I know, I feel sorry for you too but don't tell me to shut up. Just sit and listen. Even if they sound like they are speaking a foreign language to you ( They probably are) just stay with it. Trying to understand a blubbering mess is never going to be easy, but I promise we will shut up eventually, just hang on in there.
6. Reassure them
There's a fine line between being really annoying, telling them to shut up, stop being so silly and to get on with life and reassuring them. Everything is going to be okay. When someone has a panic attack. It's because their body has gone into the fight, flight or freeze response. The body thinks it's in danger and therefore makes you panic. This goes back to the time of the cavemen. I think, anyway. Let's be honest my history isn't great. Although you can think rationally and understand this now. When someone is in a state of panic, this isn't always that simple. Sympathise with them, keep talking to them and reassure them it's going to be okay but please don't get angry or annoyed if they aren't having any of it.
Panic attacks are so much fun. Said no one ever. If you just so happen to be with a friend or a family member, maybe even a stranger who is having a panic attack, try and remember these important steps.
If I worked for the NHS, I might be able to make this into some easy to remember acronym. But funny enough I don't, so you will just have to do your best to remember this. If you see someone having a panic please never ignore them. They might not want your help. They may be okay. But you won't know till you ask them.
If you have any other pieces of advice for how to support someone having a panic attack, then please let me know, in the comments below.
Thank you for reading, as always X
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